THE HOUSE OF SPONECK / SPONNECK began on the 2nd August, 1701, when the Silesian ‘Knights’, the four siblings ‘Von Hedwiger’, were together all elevated to the rank and title of ‘Counts-of-the-Empire’ by the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, in Vienna.They were Georg Wilhelm, Anna Sabina, Johann Christoph and Johann Rudolph von Hedwiger. They took their title name from the South German Rhine castle, ‘BURG SPONECK’ (built by Rudolph I – the first Holy Roman Emperor in 1285) in Kaiserstuhl, Breisgau, Baden-Wuerttemberg. At the time of their elevation Burg Sponeck belonged to the Dukes’ of Wuerttemberg in whose employ Georg Wilhelm was, as Governor of the Duke’s Possession of Montbeliard, France.
The Knights’ ‘Von Hedwiger’ were originally a noble family (Uradel) from Silesia, East Germany (now Poland) dating back to the 13th Century. They were first officially recorded, as Knights, who took part in the all important and vital ‘Battle of Liegnitz’ against the Mongols (April 9, 1241).
The later patriarch was one, Balthazar von Hedwiger, who was born in 1510. Balthazar fought against the Turks, under Charles V, and for his bravery (as a young officer, he swam accross the Danube to spy on the Turks) was later honoured with a quartering of his existing ‘arms’ by the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian II -see the two ‘Arms’ in photo section – while serving as Privy Councillor to him. Balthazar von Hedwiger’s son, Carl, and grandson, Christian, served the Dukes’ of Liegnitz as privy councillors. great-grandson, Johann Georg served as a military officer with the rank of Captain in the Wuerttemberg-Oels Regiment.
The great-great grandson of Knight Balthazar, and ancestor of the Danish branch, Colonel Georg Wilhelm, was Governor of Moempelgard from 1699 to 1702 (French, Montbeliard) under his brother-in-law, Leopold Eberhard, Duke of Wuerttemberg-Moempelgard.
In 1702 the youngest brother, Johann Rudolph, who is the current German family ancestor, was just 22 years of age when he became the Duke’s governor, as his eldest brother, Georg Wilhelm Reichsgraf von Sponneck, had resigned to return to the military. Colonel Georg was to lead the Danish troops in Holland, allied to Austria (under Prince Eugene, Duke of Savoy) and Britain (under John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough) against the ‘Sun’ King of France, Louis XIV, during the War of the Spanish Succession. Georg Wilhelm Sponneck subsequently stayed in Denmark, furthering his military career to full ‘General’ and ‘Knight of the Elephant’. He became the Patriarch of the present Danish Branch, ‘Sponneck’. (He is the 5th great-grandfather of Godfrey Harry Sponneck and 6th g-grandfather to Kristian Anthony Sponneck.) This senior branch, on the 7th July 1889, were granted the Danish equivalent title of ‘Rigsgreverne’ (Counts-of-the-Realm) by the Danish King, Christian IX.
Their sister, Anna Sabina, had been married to the Duke of Wuerttemberg-Moempelgard. Anna and the Duke did start a ‘de Sponeck’ line, which became extinct in the third generation.
The middle brother, Captain Johann Christoph von Hedwiger, Reichsgraf von Sponeck, a batchelor, left no heirs after he was fatally wounded in action at Peterwardein on the Danube River in 1716, under command of the Duke of Savoy, in battle against the Turks. He was thirty-eight years of age!
Today the Sponneck family number twenty-six families world wide in two generations from the two branches (Danish & German) ! A Norwegian Branch dating back to 1750’s and relating to Leopold Wilhelm Ludvig Sponneck, the eldest son of Georg Wilhelm, are living in Norway as ‘Sponnich’ and in America as ‘Sponnick’.
German: Graf = Count / Reichsgraf = Count-of-the-Empire (Holy Roman Empire) pertains to all ‘Von Sponeck’ born family members. Since 1906 mediatized to Graf and since 1918 ‘Graf’ forms part of the family Surname as ‘Graf von Sponeck’
Danish: Greve = Count / Rigsgreve = Count-of-the-Realm (Danish Realm) pertains to all ‘Sponneck’ born family into perpetuity (male & female for life).